Review of “Sweetest Release”

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I have a lot to say about this book. Sadly, I don’t believe all of it will be good. Some of which did have an impact on the rating and some of which did not. Sweetest Release by Nicole Highland was good, but it could have been SO MUCH better. It’s told entirely from one person’s POV, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it means that we have to get a LOT from that person’s interactions with other people. Because of that I feel like I was left with way too many unanswered questions.

Before I get to my review and all the thousands upon thousands of questions I am left with, let me tell you all about this book. Ring Synopsis

Natalie and Devin fell in love in high school. Their time together was ended all too soon when Devin was forced to move. After recovering from a broken heart, Natalie meets James who helps her pick up the pieces. Thinking she has found her happily ever after, they get married. But everything she thought she knew gets flipped when she discovers her husband has been cheating on her after four years of marriage. To make matters worse, Devin pops back into the picture. Now Natalie must decide if her marriage is worth saving or if an old flame is worth a second chance.

There you have it. All nicely tied up in a pretty little bow. From here with spoilers ahead (your one and only warning) it may get a little ugly.

spoilers Obviously from the blurb I went into this book expecting the husband to cheat. And I knew an ex-boyfriend would show back up and make Natalie reconsider the feelings she once had for him. I was unprepared for how far it would go with her ex, despite the fact that her and her husband were plainly heading for a divorce. 

Now, I want to be clear about something. myreviewI had some problems with this book and to be fair I have been cheated on in the past. I don’t believe that has colored my judgment in any way as I have read other books where an ex magically appears.

I did finish the book. I did read through it rather quickly and not because I just wanted to get it over with. I genuinely liked it, though I do think it could’ve been better developed. There were way too many unanswered questions.

With that said and done, let’s get down to it. Rollercoaster ride, here we come!

The story opens with a prologue of Devin and Natalie saying goodbye. From there we see what tends to happen between two people in love and distance. Their relationship ends up dying and Natalie slowly heals. Then she meets James and it’s another whirlwind romance, except this time she marries the guy, with an image of Devin interrupting only once. (Eep!) And that is what leads us to chapter one.

Also leads me to my first problem. The heroine’s name (Natalie, if you hadn’t read the blurb) remained unknown until Chapter One where she has discovered her husband cheated. And it isn’t even until he comes home after she has checked the tablet and found his solicitous conversations that the heroine’s name even comes up.

“‘She’s just a friend, Natalie. That’s all there is to it. She was hanging out with us last night after the softball game, and she was acting drunk and stupid.’”

SRPoem3This is the first time her name is spoken. If I hadn’t gone back and read the blurb, I wouldn’t have known her name until this point.

Of course, Natalie calls bullshit.

“‘How could you say that, James? I don’t care whether or not you actually slept with her. This is just as bad. You don’t even talk to me this way! How could you do this with a virtually complete stranger?’”

At this point, Natalie has already said it’s over. She has no intention of forgiving him. Not that he bothers to offer any kind of explanation. In fact, according to James, it means nothing. They are just words. Empty words. I really wanted to smack him upside his head. Though from what happened after Natalie got home from work, that probably wouldn’t have been the best idea. Yep, we get our first taste of drama, maybe some suspense because James hasn’t even gotten started.

“‘Put it down,’ I chided, careful not to let any trepidation escape through my voice. I tried to back away from him, but he pushed me against the counter.

‘What’s the matter? Getting a little nervous?’

The tip of the knife poked into the base of my throat, and a slight grin appeared on his face. Is he actually enjoying this? I thought. The thought made my stomach turn.”

At this point, I have no doubt that this relationship is toxic and she absolutely needs to escape her husband. I can clearly see the direction this story will go. What was unclear was whether or not this was the first time something to this effect had happened? Had he threatened her life before? Had he threatened his own? (Something he does two chapters later.) Had he hit her? From what we learn closer to the end of the story, this wasn’t James’s first rodeo. (Okay, I didn’t see that coming.) And they had already been married four years. Wouldn’t his anger have reared its ugly head sooner than that? SRPoem2

The next morning, Natalie awakes to find a text message from her ex-boyfriend, Devin. The guy who broke her heart after a failed long distance relationship. It takes another three chapters for her to concede and agree to meet. But they don’t meet up some place neutral. Instead, she goes over to his place. I feel like there should have been sirens going off screaming “Danger Will Robinson!” Not as if Natalie didn’t know it was a bad idea.

“I was nervous. I knew what I was doing was wrong, hypocritical even, but I had to see Devin. I knew this would be so freeing. I didn’t care.”

The love we see between Natalie and Devin is bright and beautiful. Three blind mice could see it! I mean, come on, what guy saves a painting his ex-girlfriend did for him nearly seven years ago.

“In the corner of the room by the television hung a painting I had done for him so long ago. I couldn’t believe after all this time he had kept my painting. His sullen, beautiful face, and those deep, piercing eyes stared back at me from the wall. A smile crossed my face.

Devin turned around and noticed that I was staring at the painting. He must have been reading my mind, for I had not spoken a word aloud about the painting, yet he seemed to know exactly what I was thinking.

‘There was no way I could let it go,’ Devin said, as his velvety voice trailed off into the silence of the room.”

Not hard to tell it was precious to him. And he hadn’t quite ever let her go. My problem here is that she seems to be jumping back in with both feet, however based on the prologue she had been angry and hurt over the end of their relationship. She has even kept him at arm length for three chapters. SRPoemAnd at no point in this meeting does she bother to ask him about what happened to them? She doesn’t question why he stopped talking to her? She doesn’t even ask him why he text her out of nowhere? 

They haven’t spoken in years and she asks nothing. What? Color me stumped because I have no explanation.

I could go over a couple more scenes like this or even some of the good ones, but I think I’ll share a few of my favorite lines instead. Honestly, I don’t want to give it all away AND it does get better!

  1. “‘You know, this state of victimhood that you like to pretend to be in is really getting old.’” (I totally gave Natalie an air-five. This was funny and shut her husband up.)
  2. “I was about to walk into his lair.” (I was amused because the only time I usually see “lair” is in fantasy or paranormal.)
  3. Celebrate all accomplishments, no matter how large or small.” (These are great words to live by!)
  4. “‘Well, I didn’t realize you wanted to be in here at the same time,’ I said mockingly.” (In case you haven’t noticed, I thrive on sarcasm.)
  5. “‘You’ll have to work on your behavior. Or we’ll both be in trouble,’ he said with a grin.” (Made me snicker. Of course, I’ve been told this myself. Not that I ever listen.)

There is development between Devin and Natalie, but I think it could’ve been stronger. To me, the prologue was unnecessary. Everything we got from it was information that could’ve been filtered throughout the story. The drama created from James and his anger management offered me no doubt he was a bad guy. I would’ve liked to have seen this explored a bit more. Still, it kept me hanging on and reading to the very last page.

With that said, overall I give this 4 stars.


Reviewer: Brigit Rosé

Review of Abby’s Promise

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I LOVED this book! It was sweet with a splash of sexy and a hint of comedy all mixed into one. Sounds like the best kind of drink if you ask me! There were moments that made me laugh, some where I wanted to cry, and others that I just wanted to beat the snot out of someone. Like I said, it was a GREAT story. But let me not get ahead of myself.

If you’ve been following me on Townie Critics, then you know how this works. Synopsis, spoiler warning, followed by full review and my final rating at the end. Now that we’re all caught up, let’s get this road on the show.


Ring Synopsis

Abby and Joey parted ways eight years ago when he joined the Marines. They had maintained some contact, but it dwindled over time until they stopped speaking all together. Now back in town, Joey wants to reconnect, but Abby isn’t all that interested. Or is she? Even if she is, there are several people who want nothing more than to keep them apart. Can they get past all the drama and find their way to one another?spoilers

Now that you know the premise, this is your one and only warning that there are SPOILERS AHEAD. Continue reading at your own risk.

The story starts off with a text between Abby and Joey. Something he’s recalling from eight years earlier. It took me a second with this because Abby apparently gave him the nickname “Jo-Jo.” I couldn’t quite get used to that. Mostly because I couldn’t imagine a guy being nicknamed “Jo-Jo.” Though, now that I think about it, I could absolutely see a feminine woman calling her best guy friend named Joseph, “Jo-Jo.” Anyway, so Joseph is on his first day of college and he’s thinking about Abby. They haven’t yet crossed paths, but we all know it has to happen soon. Then we find out Abby went to college to teach. I was absolutely giddy at this point because I knew what would happen.

Abby would turn out to be Joseph’s professor. That alone spelled trouble! Though I certainly didn’t imagine everything else that would be going on. Kidnapping, fights, jail, asshole parents … okay, maybe that’s a bit strong … self-righteous would be more appropriate. Maybe even indignant. But I get to that later.

Within the first few chapters, we learn rather quickly that both Joseph and Abby have been through some things. Joseph fought in the war and that certainly left a mark on him. Then there’s family, his father mostly. I have never wanted to punch the shit out of a character more than I did Joey’s father! The guy was an absolute tool! Dickhead! Scoundrel. You get the picture.

As for Abby, she isn’t just the mother of a two-year-old, but she’s also a widow. Another mark left by war and this is one of the reasons she initially pushes Joey away. As the story goes on, we discover more about what happened to Abby’s late husband. This made me feel for her. Yes, she had her daughter and her family, but sometimes that isn’t enough. And while Joey had been her first love, she isn’t quite ready to take another leap, at least not without some encouragement.

AbbyPromise1And that is where we get our romance and hot as hell moments from!  Because sometimes you just can’t fight the feeling. Which means all it takes is a small glimpse of hope. It takes a couple of days, but Abby gives Joey just what he needs. “My heart lifted. It wasn’t a no, but a maybe another time. That gave me hope.” This leads to an offer for him to babysit while she’s teaching. Which can only go one direction.

Comedy! It would have been nice to see Joey babysitting from his point of view, except then the story might have dragged on a little. So the summaries we get by texts between Joey and Abby were the right way to go. And I definitely laughed. My favorite line, “YOU DIDN’T TELL ME THEY POOP THIS MUCH.”

Though, Abby’s reaction was pretty amusing too. “I stared at his text and started to laugh. I could just imagine the look on his face, changing my daughter. What is this? What is that? Why is there so much? He would be disgusted, amused, and freaking out.”

Seriously? Abby’s daughter is going on two. Kids do four things at that age: sleep, play, eat, and poop. What else did he expect? I’m just saying.

This was also pretty sweet. The way Joey got along with Abby’s daughter, how he entertained her, and it just made him look sexier to Abby. Not that was ready to admit it. And honestly that made me LOVE the story more. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good sex scene, but with these two we actually got to see them falling in love with one another.

While I don’t want to give too much away, I will leave you with three more of my favorite lines.

  1. “As if to let me know, Zoey promptly hit me on the top of my head. ‘Go!’ she squealed.”
  2. “My sister was laughing now. ‘Jesus Christ, ya’ll need a hotel room or what?’”
  3. “‘You’re the giver of wood, Abby Jameson.’”

Following their journey is what made this book so wonderful! Not only did these two have to overcome the history they had with each other, but they also had to battle the demons that had crept in while they were apart. This was a great read!

With that said, I give it …